Since Hamas captured Gilad Shalit on June 25, 2006, on and off talks negotiated his release.
Hamas took him captive, responding to repeated Israeli attacks, including a widely reported beach shelling. It killed eight Palestinians, injuring 32 others, including 13 children. Israel denied responsibility, falsely blaming a Hamas mine despite forensic evidence proving otherwise.
In retaliation, Hamas struck an Israeli military post near Kerem Shalom crossing, southeast of Rafah. Two Israeli soldiers were killed. Several others were injured, and Shalit was capture.
He's been held ever since because Israel refused to negotiate responsibly to free him. It preferred using his captivity to vilify Hamas until now.
On October 12, Haaretz headlined, "Israel cabinet approves Gilad Shalit prisoner swap," saying:
Voting early Wednesday morning, Netanyahu's cabinet agreed to free over 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners in two waves in return for Hamas releasing him after over five years in captivity.
According to newly released figures, Palestinian Central Bureau Statistics said over 750,000 Palestinians were arrested and detained since June 1967, including those affected several times. They include about 12,000 women and "tens of thousands of children."
Throughout Occupied Palestine and Israel, prisons, detention camps and interrogation centers were established to incarcerate, torture, abuse and humiliate them.
Currently, Israel holds about 6,000 detainees, including 35 women and 285 children. Others as young as 10 (and occasionally younger) remain until adulthood, losing out entirely on their formative childhood years.
As a result of torture, medical neglect, or assassination, over 200 died martyrs in captivity. Another 302 are called "veteran detainees," serving 17 years or longer.
Another 136 serving 20 years or more are called "Deans of Detainees." "Generals of Patience" is a term applied to prisoners incarcerated over 25 years. As of October, they number 41.
On October 13, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) press release headlined, "Closure of Gaza Must Be Lifted as Shalit's Pretext Diminished," saying:
Welcoming the deal, PCHR said it calls for swapping 1,027 Palestinians for Shalit. Terms include releasing 27 women and nearly 300 children.
Overall, two waves are involved. The first will be completed in a week when Shalit's freed in exchange for 450 Palestinians, including 279 serving life sentences and 27 women.
In two months, phase two will release another 550. According to terms, 203 will be deported, 40 exiled overseas, and 163 expelled to Gaza.
In wave one, Haaretz said 110 will be released to their West Bank and East Jerusalem homes, including 55 Hamas members. "According to the deal, 131 Gaza residents will be released" to go home, "many of whom are reportedly top Hamas operatives."
In addition, six Israeli Arabs imprisoned for many years will be released to their homes. Two women, Ahlam Tamimi and Amna Muna, will be deported.
According to Shin Bet, some prisoners Hamas demanded be freed will remain incarcerated, including Abdullah Barghouti, Ibrahim Hamed, Abbas Sayed, Ahmed Saadat (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader), and Marwan Barghouti because his popular loyalist spirit making him a leading figure to be Palestine's next president.
PCHR "expresse(d) reservations on deporting" Palestinians because forced migration violates international law.
It's also concerned that 5,000 mostly political prisoners, including 400 Gazans, "will remain detained under cruel and degrading conditions."
In recent years, they deteriorated markedly since Shalit's capture. Cruelty includes severe overcrowding; poor ventilation and sanitation; no change of clothes or adequate clothing; wooden planks with thin mattresses for beds; filthy blankets; inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity or conformance with dietary requirements; medical neglect; and hindered access to family members and counsel, among other abuses.
Last June, Netanyahu announced plans to toughen conditions further. They already violate international law. Now they've gotten worse.
As a result, hundreds of prisoners went on open-ended hunger strike against Israeli prison hell. Thousands of free Palestinians rallied supportively. Many spent agonizing months or years in Israeli prisons themselves.
In late September, strikers refused to wear prison uniforms, participate in daily roll calls, or cooperate in other ways with Israeli Prison Service (IPS) demands.
In response, prison authorities imposed harsher measures, including transferring large numbers to other prisons, imposing harmful to health dietary restrictions, confiscating electrical appliances, and assaulting prison cells with tear gas.
"PCHR is gravely concerned over the continued deterioration of prisoners' conditions inside Israeli prisons."
As a result, it urged international community support to exert pressure for more releases and to treat those confined humanely in conformity with Fourth Geneva's Article 33, stating:
"No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or terrorism are prohibited....Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."
In addition, Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955) call for refraining from punitive measures Palestinians have endured for years in prison.
PCHR also addressed Gaza's blockade since mid-2006 and tightened siege since mid-2007. These punitive measures gravely impacted normal life in violation of international law.
Israel blockaded Gaza in response to Shalit's capture. With his release imminent, its pretext no longer exists. As a result, PCHR calls for its immediate end and for the international community to intervene to relieve years of Gazan suffering.
If demands are made with teeth, perhaps Israel will comply. Urging alone won't help. A nation long used to its own way, only understands ultimatums suggesting too great a price to pay.
It's high time it includes stiff sanctions, isolation, and perhaps UN expulsion unless Gaza's freed, occupation ends, and Palestine is admitted as the world body's 194th member with rights equal to all others.
In other words, a price demanding long denied justice is essential. Nothing less than liberation is tolerable after 63 years of persecution and denial. Now's the time to end it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.